The 18th Consumer Rights Reporting Awards Media Power at its Finest in Upholding Consumer Rights
The Consumer Rights Reporting Awards (CRRA) this year has reached a historic new high in the number of entries since 2008, receiving a total of 259 entries for the annual contest. The CRRA, now in its 18th year, are coveted professional honours that recognise outstanding consumer rights reporting, with the aim to arouse an increased sense of concern, among the media and the public, over issues of consumer rights and interests. Since last year, the CRRA has embraced web-based media into the competition in keeping with the ever-changing ecology of the journalistic world. Entries from web-based media this year jumped more than a double over the last year, indicating the wide support and acceptance of CRRA by the media in its various platforms.
Among the 259 entries were 120 from the text category, 15 audio, and 61 audio-visual; and in the Press Photography and Campus categories, 45 and 18 entries were received respectively. The issues covered are as diverse as they are pressing, for instance, “Bid Rigging in Property Maintenance Tenders”, High Risks in Medical Beauty Therapy”, “First-hand Property Sales” and also exposés of consumer rights violations such as “Suspected Deception in Overseas Property Investment”, “Dubious Animal Telepathic Communication” and “Beauty Parlour Intermediaries Using Male Charm to Lure the Feminine into Beauty Treatment”, etc. Another focus was on sustainable consumption with submission highlighting micro-contaminants from personal/health care products (such as microplastics) and apparels (artificial synthetic tissues) adversely affecting marine ecology, which demands attention and concern of the community.
At the CRRA Presentation Ceremony today (31 July), a total of 30 awards for the 7 categories, and 4 additional Sustainable Consumption Awards were presented by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr. Edward, Yau Tang-wah, GBS, JP, and Chairman of the Council’s Publicity and Community Relations Committee, Mr. Chan Kam-wing.
In his welcome speech, Mr. Chan said, “The media is the eye of society and a close ally of the Council for many years. I am most delighted to see from the winning entries the power of the media as displayed by our friends in reporting courageously on consumer issues of divergent public views and opinions, exposing without fear undesirable trade practices, in a joint effort with the Council in the defence for consumer rights.”
On this occasion was also held in celebration of the monthly publication CHOICE which has just turned 500-issue old, a special time capsule sealing ceremony. Together, Mr. Yau, Mr. Chan and Council representatives officiated at the ceremony with a collection of memorabilia including CHOICE Issue 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500, and a range of complimentary souvenirs for subscription of CHOICE. Included in the capsule were also appreciation cards from Mr. Yau, readers and members of the public expressing their well wishes and expectations for CHOICE. The Council firmly believes that the strong public expectations of CHOICE will provide the vital momentum to drive the publication forward to yet another 500-issue milestone.
The Text category for this year drew nearly half of the total submissions, with 80 entries from news/features/commentaries and 40 from investigative reporting.
The Gold Award in the news/features/commentaries went to the series on the disastrous consequences that could be caused by the growing problem of micro contaminants in consumer products. Based on extensive interviews with research institutes, universities, and environmental groups, the series revealed man-made micro-contaminants, in various shapes and guises, being disposed of into the seas and ultimately affecting marine ecology and the food chain, and posing serious risks to the human health. The report provides objective and valuable reference information to consumers, highlighting also the Hong Kong policies on the environment being lagging behind the international practice. The entry also received the Sustainable Consumption Award in Text category.
In investigative reporting, the Gold Award entry looked into the emergence of property sales involving a single contract for multi-flat units. A thorough search of documents of the Land Registration Department and the property developers’ register of transactions found speculators taking advantage of tax exemption for first-time property buyers, started to purchase property units in large numbers in order to evade the Government stamp duty policies aimed to cool the property market. The series uncovered a loophole in the Government policies and, following the publication, the Government undertook to amend the legislation concerned as soon as possible. The investigative reporting exemplifies the power of the media in their vital monitoring role of society.
Audio and Audio-visual category
Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) and retirement protection are consumer issues of much discussion in the community in recent years. The Audio Gold Award entry this year examined the MPF Authority’s proposed scheme in response to the community - the MPF Default Investment Strategy (DIS), critically analysing the complicated details and risks of the new scheme as well as its impact on the consumers, and calling on MPF participants to pay heed to their own MPF accounts and to effectively manage their assets.
In the Audio-visual entries, the Gold Award for short clips, invited security experts to test the security system of a number of holiday tour websites in Hong Kong. It found security loopholes in some of these websites, which may lead to leaking of personal privacy; consumers were alerted to pay attention to personal data protection. The Gold Award for long clips posed as mysterious tenants, exposing the bid rigging by contractors in maintenance tenders of public housing estates, in contravention of the Competition Ordinance on undesirable trade practice.
Press Photo category
The Press Photo Gold Award entry took a tour of the Hong Kong Food Festival, vividly capturing with the lens the huge amount of rubbish left in the aftermath of the festival and the problem it created.
Entries in this category covered topical issues of particular interest and concern to the young consumers. The campus reporter of Gold Award followed his peers through the hotspots of street food at Kwai Chung Plaza, and found many of the food stalls there were operating illegally without a licence. Apart from the concern over food safety and environmental hygiene, these stalls also brought hidden hazards of fire safety.
Sustainable Consumption Reporting Awards
The winning entry of the Sustainable Consumption Reporting Award in Audio category illustrated the environmental problem of overuse of plastic packaging in Hong Kong and the collection and recycling channels. The reporter also further explored the possibility of banning the use of plastics in Hong Kong.
For the Sustainable Consumption Reporting Award in Press Photo category, the winning photo journalist captured in black and white the night scene of Hong Kong streets but because of the severe light pollution have turned many streets by night into broad daylight.
As regards the Sustainable Consumption Reporting Award in Campus category, the winning entry explored from the perspective of a consumer and the environmental groups, the latest trend in “fast fashion” and how this trend has created excessive wasteful consumption with the advice that consumers should bear in mind to support responsible sustainable consumption.
The CRRA is organised by the Consumer Council in partnership with the Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association. The aim is to honour journalists in recognition of their excellence in consumer rights reporting. The annual event has become one of the most prestigious annual awards to journalists in Hong Kong. The adjudication is carried out by a 15-member panel composing of professional organisations and leading academics in journalism as well as the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Council.